ALCHEMY

Written by: Cyndi MacMillan


The calendar reports that February will be a short month. It lies. February is shackled to each of its endless, grey hours and this month will be cold and draining. People have packed up their Christmas lights. All is bleak, and my kitchen window has betrayed me.

frost on the pane 
constricts a view to blanched roofs-
windchill factor

Winter is pummeling the region with frigid fists. Today, I will cook with spice. Though some prefer the familiar respites of creamy potatoes or fresh baked bread, I long for my taste buds to tingle. I have been gifted three hours, time enough to saturate my senses. I’ve gathered my ingredients and start to prepare two dishes.

stinging tears
mingle with home comforts  –
minced onions

Cooking this way is intoxicating. I loose myself in texture and aroma. I turn the volume up on the CD player, allow the notes to stir me as I stir tea.  The music is sensual, evocative.

I tap a spoon
on a chipped cup that steeps chai –
Bollywood soundtrack

I forget the subzero temperatures, the punishing trek through snow with a large bag of groceries. My hips pick up the rhythm and respond to a tune that I can not translate but somehow understand, for the song is filled with longing. My feet move and the steps are defiant. While meat browns, I turn my back to all the white, the icy sidewalks and the clouds that have become ever-present and I glide to my spice drawer. 

I am making butter chicken, knowing it will tantalize the tongue, readjust the temperature gage. There is alchemy to spice. The magic begins with Garam masala. Later, turmeric’s pledge will be accepted by cumin. I take a deep breath and let the the fog of flavour chase away each chill. 

curry and cloves
transform the ordinary –
taste of India

Next, I begin on a recipe which I’ve modified. It is not quite Coque au Vin. I dredge the meat in Herbs de Provence. Root vegetables blend with crispy bits of bacon and chicken stock. Then, I combine fresh herbs, tuck them into cheese cloth, set it afloat and let the satchel share its wealth. 

savoury branches
wilt as broth simmers   –
bouquet garni 

I take my time tidying the mess which I’ve made. The poet in me takes a second look at the meals which now cook side by side, like twin continents on my counter. The cultures are distinct, west and east, and yet the aromas easily accommodate each other. There is no division, no conditions, no restrictions. Two territories, well seasoned and season-less. 

the warmth of the world 
escapes in steam from crockpots–
my contented sigh

Again, I inhale. Tonight, we will feast.  A view of the outside no longer matters. This small space has suddenly grown. Time has flown and winter will not cross this doorway.

I will not let it.